When you see Christians behaving badly, don’t you wonder what the deal is? Shouldn’t knowing Jesus make a major difference in the way people think, the words people speak, and the actions people take?
A common misconception is that being a Christ-follower should result in perfection. And so non-Christians, starting from this basis, cry foul when Christians mess up (i.e., sin). Being honest, I cry foul too when I see Christians—including myself—behaving badly.
If we say we know God and still sin, we lie.
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1:6). So it’s true—knowing Jesus should make a difference in how we live.
If we say we have no sin, we are deceived.
“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. . . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1:8, 10). It’s also true that we all sin—even those who know Jesus.
Uh oh. Now we’re stuck! We can’t go on sinning if we know God, and if we say aren’t sinning so that we can claim to know God, we are deceived.
It’s in this stuck place that God comes to our rescue and gives us the means to deal with it.
When we sin, we need to be honest about it.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9).
We can be honest about our sin because we have Jesus.
“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (2:1–2).
Do Christians behave badly? Yes. Sin is common to all, Christian and non-Christian alike. And that sin is so serious that Jesus paid the price for it, dying on the cross. That’s why John tells us: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”
But focusing on Christians and behavior misses the beauty of the story. This story isn’t about us and how we are measuring up to a standard of perfection. The story is about something much greater: It’s about God who manifests Himself through imperfect people when they walk in the Light and who shows His glorious grace to imperfect people when they walk in the dark.